Friday, April 20, 2012

Walker spokesman spins education data, blames three districts

Werwie unfairly scapegoats Milwaukee, Janesville, and Kenosha schools

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Instruction released numbers detailing how cuts to education this year resulted in losses in staffing within schools across the state (PDF).

Overall, more than 2,300 jobs were cut in 73 percent of districts across Wisconsin. Of these cuts, 60 percent (or about 1,446) were teachers. In the end, the teacher/student ratio reached the highest level it's been at in nine years.

Perhaps in anticipation of such dreadful news, the Walker administration was ready with their excuse rationale for the dismal numbers. Cullen Werwie, Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman, placed the blame on three districts in particular: Kenosha, Janesville, and Milwaukee.
Gov. Scott Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie had a different take on the numbers. He highlighted that 43 percent of the staff cuts came in Milwaukee, Janesville and Kenosha, which account for 13 percent of the state's student population.

Districts that took advantage of the flexibility under the state's new collective bargaining law could have cut positions and saved money by requiring teachers to take on an additional class period each day, Werwie said.

"DPI’s data is further proof that Governor Walker’s reforms are working," Werwie said.
So we're led to believe that teacher cuts are the fault of these three districts, that if we accounted for those districts' losses, the rest of the state would have been typical, comparable perhaps to losses in the last year or so.

But when you look at the data (EXCEL), it doesn't fit the implications that Werwie makes. When you take a look at teacher cuts over the past three years, a different picture is painted. In 2011-12, there were (as already mentioned) 1,446 teacher cuts. The year before, there were 825, and in the year before that there were 810 teachers cut statewide.

But Werwie blames this year's cuts on the three districts that didn't enact Act 10 (or, at least he implies it's all on them). So let's take them out of the equation. If Werwie is correct in his assumption, if Walker's "reforms" are truly working, we should see a decrease in teacher cuts:

What we see instead is the exact opposite -- an increase in losses between the 2010-11 school year and 2011-12, the first year with Act 10 in place and Walker's billion-dollar education cuts. In fact, the increases in teacher cuts are more than double what they were last school year in Act 10 schools, and are also more than the previous two years of losses combined.

It's clear that schools are losing teachers and growing their class sizes. Since Walker took office, it's become even worse, due mainly to shortfalls in school districts' budgets across the state. In blaming Milwaukee, Janesville, and Kenosha, however, the Walker administration is trying to deceive the people of Wisconsin into thinking Walker's reforms are "working."

But the numbers don't lie -- things are getting WORSE, not better, and to ignore this fact is a disservice to the schoolchildren of our state. Making these three districts a scapegoat doesn't negate the fact that the rest of the state did twice as bad this year in teachers cuts than last. The Walker reforms are failing Wisconsin -- and it's time everyone acknowledges that.


  1. Great work, Chris. I used that great graph you had, and added onto it with info on the overall teaching losses in Wisconsin since 2003. The cuts for this year are a major double-whammy after what was done in the past, and certainly not worth the $18 the average homeowner might have saved.

    In fact, the loss in home values due to the devaluing of schools and the employees who own a lot of homes costs far more, especially in the Walker-supporting 262 suburbs where they have nothing else to offer except high-quality schools.

  2. Thanks for the props, Jake, and as always you're spot on with your assessments. Walker has made it almost impossible for schools to improve, much less stay afloat.